- Jon Gruden is expected to be named the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
- Gruden is still scheduled to be in the booth for ESPN to cover the Wild Card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.
- The Chiefs may not want a rival’s next coach to have behind-the-scenes access leading up to the game and both teams may not like Gruden talking to potential free agents even if he is just doing his job.
Jon Gruden’s return to coaching with the Oakland Raiders now feels like the NFL’s worst-kept secret and that reunion could cause a problem for two teams that otherwise seemingly have nothing to do with the affair – the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans.
The Chiefs and Titans are currently preparing for their Wild Card-round playoff matchup that will be broadcast Saturday on ESPN. The color commentator for that game is expected to be Gruden as part of his duties for “Monday Night Football.”
If Gruden is indeed the Raiders’ coach-in-waiting, this could create a problem for the Chiefs, a division rival of the Raiders.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk pointed out, it is customary for teams to grant behind-the-scenes access to network announcers preparing for the game, access that would include practices and production meetings. The Chiefs may not want a coach they are going to face twice next season to have the same level of access, or any access at all, to their preparations.
As of Monday morning, Gruden is still scheduled to work the game, according to Bill Hofheimer of ESPN.
Earlier this season, Fox limited the pre-game access of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen who served as a commentator for a Minnesota Vikings game three weeks before the two teams were scheduled to face each other.
One thing that may work in ESPN’s favor is Gruden and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid are considered close from their days working together as assistant coaches with the Green Bay Packers. But that may not supersede the Chiefs’ desire for privacy.
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk also noted that there is potential for both the Chiefs and Titans to file tampering complaints with the NFL if Gruden contacts potential free agents on either team prior to the game or comments on them during the game. Even if done in the framework of his normal broadcasting duties, it could be seen as a violation of NFL rules prohibiting coaches from commenting or contacting players still under contract with other teams.
While no official announcement has been made regarding Gruden and the Raiders’ now-vacant coaching position, all signs point to that just being a formality at this point.
On Sunday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Gruden will be the next coach of the Raiders, a proclamation he presumably would not make without some reassurance of its accuracy from fellow ESPNer Gruden.
“It’s simple, you don’t make that move with Jack Del Rio unless you know you can get Jon Gruden,” Schefter said on ESPN. “Jon Gruden is going to be the next coach of the Oakland Raiders. The only question is when it happens.”
In addition, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Gruden is expected to accept the Raiders’ offer, but that he is slow-playing any announcement in an effort to comply with the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” requiring teams to interview minority candidates. Rapoport added that Gruden has already picked a defensive coordinator.
“The Raiders are confident Jon Gruden will say yes eventually, though he is being careful about doing so before they comply with the Rooney Rule and he is still on the books to broadcast a game Saturday for ESPN,” Rapoport wrote on Twitter. “Gruden is already planning to call plays, hire DC Paul Guenther.”